The Afterwards

A.F. Harrold, illus. by Emily Gravett. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0044-1
The creators of The Imaginary offer another friendship story that inventively meshes—and blurs—the realistic and the fanciful. The novel’s premise involves two fatal accidents: Ember’s best friend, Ness, falls from a swing, and her uncle’s beloved dog, Betty, is struck by a car. Her grieving uncle furtively leads his niece through a gate into an eerily silent, black-and-white world where the dead reside “for as long as it took them to forget they’d ever been alive.” He makes a deal with the supercilious doyenne of the limbo realm to swap Ember for Betty, since “leaving a live person behind” lets him “take a dead one back” to the living world. Ember finds Ness in the Afterwards and is determined to escape with her, so the two—and their friendship—can live on. This requires Ember to strategically oscillate between the worlds of the living and the recently dead, which makes for some repetition and leads to an unnerving encounter between Ember and her long-deceased mother. Aided by Gravett’s evocative art, Harrold brings this eerie, Briticism-laced tale about accepting change, letting go, and love’s indissoluble bonds to an affecting finale that is very much grounded in real life. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2018
Release date: 03/19/2019
Genre: Children's
Book - 978-1-5476-0049-6
Ebook - 978-1-5476-0048-9
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